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International Newswire: Berlinale Receives Boost From Small-Screen Drama Series

In today’s International Newswire, how the Berlin Film Festival has received a boost from drama series, the Nordic countries seek to encourage more films to travel across the region, Sony creates a free-to-air crime channel in the U.K., and President Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone is to speak at Oxford University.

What recent Berlinale title has proved the most popular with audiences? One candidate: “Babylon Berlin,” presented as a project three years ago. It’s also of course a TV series. The ability of high-end TV drama to deliver sophisticated fiction to millions worldwide is in sharp contrast to most art films. It explains not only directors’ diaspora to the small-screen format but the increasing punch of TV dramas at major festivals worldwide. The Berlinale is no exception. Featuring world or international premieres of first episodes, Berlinale Series opens with one weighty title, Australian drama “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” starring Nathalie Dormer, and includes the world premiere of Edward Berger’s AMC/Amazon-backed “The Terror.”

Packing eight TV projects, Berlin CoPro Series also features notable names: “Fury,” a detective thriller from “Tomb Raider” director Roar Uthaug, and “In a Heartbeat,” from Israeli writers Shani Melamed Nitzan and Gaya Wildman.

Unspooling Feb. 21 at Berlin Drama Series Days, CoPro Series also underscores industry trends. The slippage from film to TV continues: “South” is the first TV outing from Portugal’s Ivo M. Ferreira, whose second feature, “Letters from War,” played Berlin Competition in 2016, while drama “Baby Alone” is the TV debut of German film/documentary screenwriters Judith Angerbauer and Matthias Luthardt.

Germany and Scandinavia dominate the selection with eight of the 15 titles in the two showcases.

Many CoPro series are noirs, such as Irish revenge series “Costigan” and “Henkersbach,” from German film-TV director Dominik Graf (“Beloved Sisters”). But CoPro Series also highlights European drama’s current range. Produced by Iceland’s Vestuport, “Black Port” narrates the impact of fishing monopolies on a small community; and “The Faction,” from Dutch producer Submarine, chronicles the personal impact of terrorism. That breadth remains one of the attractions of European TV fiction.

NORDISK FILM & TV FOND LAUNCH NORDIC DISTRIBUTION BOOST
The Nordisk Film & TV Fond is launching the Nordic Distribution Boost, a two-day workshop running April 16-18, targeting five-to-seven producers and the up-and-coming directors of medium-sized films, aimed at helping them find audiences in next-door Nordic territories. Projectors eligible should be second or third features with Nordic market potential from companies with at least one hit movie under their belts. The initiative pinpoints one Nordic film challenge. Not so long ago, Nordic films had an uphill battle to be released across the region. That’s changing — thanks to TV series that are creating regional stars.

Nordisk Film’s feature “Solsidan the Movie,” a spin-off from the Swedish TV show, has sold more than 101,000 tickets in Norway and 141,000 in Finland, currently ranking No. 3 at the box office – after the TV series proved highly popular in both territories, especially Finland. Over last weekend, Finnish horror-of-war blockbuster “The Unknown Soldier” was still No. 18 in Sweden, after seven weeks on release. But it’s still a struggle for middling features from less established talent to break out. Hence the NFTF initiative.

SONY CRIME CHANNEL GOES FREE-TO-AIR IN U.K.
On Feb. 6, Sony Pictures Television Networks (SPTN) will merge its U.K. networks True Crime and Sony Channel into a single free-to-air network, Sony Crime Channel. Series such as the Netflix original “Orange Is the New Black,” and CBS’s “Person of Interest” and “C.S.I.,” along with a host of classic British crime shows headline a slate set to include scripted and non-scripted content. Initially, Sony Crime Channel will be available on Freeview, YouView and Sky, and Freesat on Feb. 13. Sony is just the latest U.S provider to increase their free-to-air presence in the U.K. after similar moves from A&E, Fox and Discovery.

ROGER STONE TO SPEAK AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY

Political consultant and strategist Roger Stone, formerly one of President Donald Trump’s key advisers, is to speak at the Oxford Union, the British university’s debating society, on Jan. 30.

Stone is the subject of the Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” which premiered last year. The film follows Stone’s involvement in the seminal events of American politics, including his role in the election of Trump. In the documentary Stone claims he got Trump to run for president.

Stone has worked for Presidents Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Trump, as well as dozens of other candidates since the 1970s. He is a correspondent for InfoWars and has appeared on Fox New, CNN and MSNBC, and has written op-eds for the New York Times.

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